Old Ephraim: The Legendary Grizzly of the Bear River Range



“He could see without being seen, hear without being heard, and kill without being killed.”

from “The Story of Old Ephraim” by Orson Ryan

The story of Old Ephraim has circulated since the early twentieth century, when the legendary grizzly preyed upon sheep grazing in the Bear River Range. Frustrated herders, hoping to limit losses to their flocks, pursued the elusive bear, but he remained largely unseen and unheard for many years. The only trace of Old Ephraim was his distinctive tracks, which exhibited only three toes on one foot—hence the nickname “Old Three Toes.” In August 1922, after attempting for more than nine years, sheepherder Frank Clark finally trapped and killed Old Ephraim.

Nearly a century later, the story of Old Ephraim has been told and retold. While many aspects of the story remain the same, parts have become exaggerated to the point that some believe the legend is only a fantastical campfire story. But Old Ephraim was real, and his skull, on display in Utah State University’s (USU) Special Collections & Archives, is a tangible connection to the legend. This overview traces the tale from its roots, examining the era when Old Ephraim roamed, the stories of his death, and the saga of his skull, separating fact from fiction as we remember the legendary grizzly of the Bear River Range.


Project Team:

  • Alyson Griggs (Exhibit Curator)
  • Clint Pumphrey (Content Advisor/Reviewer)
  • Shay Larsen (Graphic Designer)
  • Darcy Pumphrey (Digital Project Coordinator/ Image Quality Control)
  • Branson Roskelley (Image Quality Control)
  • Abby Thorne (Copy Editor)

Student Scanning Technicians:

  • Kelvin Bloxham
  • Braden Clinger
  • Clint Jessop
  • Malori Menck
  • Maren Stephens